Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, July 19, 2018 —U.S. Army Colonel Kevin Russell, a Hampton University graduate, Combat Engineer and Special Forces Officer, assumed command of Joint Task Force-Bravo during a change of command ceremony at Soto Cano Air Base, July 17, 2018.
The ceremony was presided by Admiral Kurt W. Tidd, commander of the US Southern Command, who was joined by Honduran military and civilian leaders, as well as US Embassy representatives, who witnessed the transfer of the colors from Col. Keith McKinley to Col. Russell.
McKinley assumed command of the Task Force on July 10, 2017 and during his tenure led a diverse force consisting of five major supporting commands and more than 500 service members.
“I was here many years ago and I remember the kindness and compassion of all of you. You have been great friends and I will be sure to pass on what I have been taught, “said Col. McKinley addressing the Honduran military.” I have had no greater honor to stand here today humbly before you one last time as your servant. Thank you for all you have taught me during my time in command,” said McKinley.
Col. McKinley leaves JTF-Bravo for a new assignment in Korea. Under his direction, JTF-Bravo participated in numerous multinational exercises that promoted trust and cooperation within Central American nations, also providing humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and air transportation support during Hurricanes Irma and Maria as part of Joint Task Force-Leeward Islands.
During the ceremony, Admiral Tidd highlighted some of Col. McKinley’s most important accomplishments.
“JTF-Bravo nurtured the growth of the Central American community of interest; continuing to build trust and to enhance information sharing among its members. Keith spearheaded a related initiative called the northern tier working group bringing together countless members to work and share information in the critical security business that we are involved in,” said Tidd. “From capacity building, to delivering critical aid, to providing support to special missions like the recent visit by Vice President Pence, the JTF-Bravo team has demonstrated time and again that they are ready, relevant and absolutely valued as regional teammates.”
The change of command is rich in history and tradition. The transfer of the colors from Col. McKinley to Admiral Tidd represents the transfer of command of the Task Force after fulfilling his assignment. Once Admiral Tidd receives the colors they are then transferred by him to the new commander, representing the beginning of his command and the transfer of authority. Col. Russell in turn returns the colors to Command Sergeant Major Robert Keith, his trusted adviser and director of the color guard, who represents the troops that make up JTF-Bravo. Through this action, the new commander in turn places his trust in the command sergeant major to direct his troops.
Col. Russell, new commander of JTF-Bravo assumed command after completing his assignment in the Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT), where he served as the SOCCENT Theater Liaison Element Team Chief to the U.S. Central Command.
“Thank you to the McKinley family for being the most gracious hosts I could have asked for and for their work in preparing me to continue in their successful work here in Honduras for Joint Task Force-Bravo,” said Russel as he bid farewell to his predecessor. “Thank you to the airmen, the soldiers, marines and sailors on the field today and thank you to the nation of Honduras for being excellent partners. I look forward to a warm and mutually beneficial relationship during this next year.”
Col. Russell has visited Honduras and Central America on multiple occasions as a member of the 7th Special Forces group and has extensive operational experience.
Admiral Tidd highlighted his confidence in his abilities, also mentioning that it is a pleasure to put this Task Force in his hands and be able to welcome him to the Southern Command family.
“I know that Kevin will continue to grow on Keith’s successes in the year to come. You have an important job ahead of you and I will be relying on you as we continue to strengthen our partnerships throughout Central America,” said Tidd. “You will find no better team than the men and women of JTF-Bravo and you will find no better partners than our Central American friends.”